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Massive fire guts two buildings in Westlake and cadaver dogs search for possible victims

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Firefighters extinguish hot spots after a fire ripped through two buildings in a Westlake neighborhood early Thursday.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

After a massive fire ripped through two buildings in a Westlake neighborhood early Thursday, cadaver dogs searched one of the smoldering structures for remains of possible victims, authorities said.

The search was intended “to make sure there were no homeless individuals trapped in the fire,” said Erik Scott, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Late Thursday, authorities said the dogs had not found any survivors or human remains, although “tons of debris” in one building’s basement have drawn out the search process.

“There’s no likelihood anyone would have survived,” said Brian Humphrey, an LAFD spokesman. “We are doing our best to say we have exhausted all of our efforts ... and bring closure.”

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Flames had erupted just after 2 a.m. inside a large two-story Victorian duplex in the 600 block of Bonnie Brae Street. More than 160 firefighters tackled the fast-moving flames as the blaze spread into a neighboring four-story apartment building, Scott said.

The duplex “was already on fire shooting into the sky and street” when firefighters arrived, Scott said. “This was a defensive fight.”

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(OnScene.TV)

About 50 residents of a nearby convalescent home were evacuated, he said. Others were asked to shelter in place. No injuries were reported.

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After a more than hourlong battle, firefighters extinguished the blaze.

Arson investigators were looking into the cause of the fire, Scott said. Officials said it could take several days before investigators identify what sparked the blaze.

Around 8 a.m. Thursday, six fire trucks remained on Bonnie Brae. A firefighter scaled a ladder extending to the roof of the Mid-Wilshire Convalescent Hospital, just around the corner from the fire station.

Smoke wafted through the air where the fire had burned through several floors of the small apartment complex and scorched the roof of the law library next door. The tan apartment building was tinged with black. Most of the complex’s windows were shattered.

A pile of scorched wood smoldered where the Victorian duplex once stood. Firefighters said the destroyed building had been vacant for years, and it was possible homeless people were inside at the time of the fire.

Wilshire Boulevard was closed in the area but later reopened.

Luis Mayen, 38, was home with his wife and children when the fire broke out. The family lives in an apartment complex across the street from the burned building.

The alarms sounded early in the morning, he said, and he was worried that the fire was in their own building.

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“We woke up and saw a lot of firefighters,” Mayen said.

His Honda SUV was parked on the street just a few feet from the fire. Like other cars near the burned complex, his sat covered in ash.

“We have kids,” the construction worker said. “We were scared.”

Mayen said he kept a close eye on the fight to extinguish the fire and didn’t return to his apartment until it was over.

sarah.parvini@latimes.com

Twitter: @SarahParvini

veronica.rocha@latimes.com

Twitter: @VeronicaRochaLA

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UPDATES:

6:15 p.m.: This article was updated with details on the status of the fire investigation.

9:15 a.m.: This article was updated with comments from neighbor Luis Mayen.

6:35 a.m.: This article was updated with additional information from fire department spokesman Erik Scott.

This article was originally published at 5:55 a.m.


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